Horror Studies 9.2 is now available

Intellect is delighted to announce that Horror Studies 9.2 is now available! For more information about the issue, click here >>

The vast and omnivorous cloud

Authors: Thomas M. Stuart 
Page Start: 151

Although it seems to promise an immaterial, unmediated, almost supernatural collapse of space at the user’s convenience, the cloud is not a solely spectral space. This introduction examines the cloud as a material object, a network of physical networks. It argues that inherent in the cloud’s nature as an internetwork is an excess, an overwhelming capacity to connect, reorganize and integrate. The physical nature and user experience of the Internet presents an uncontrolled, networked mediation of our personal lives, our history, our physical media and our orientation to the increasingly digital world. Examining popular digital horror, such as Slender Man, The Dionaea House (2006) and Kris Straub’s Ichor Falls (2009), alongside the articles collected in this special issue, this introduction argues that digital horror anxiously rehearses the cloud’s voracious capacity to incorporate that which should be left alone.

Spectres des Monstres: Post-postmodernisms, hauntology and creepypasta narratives as digital fiction

Authors: Joe Ondrak 
Page Start: 161

Horror has always been adaptable to developments in media and technology; this is clear in horror tales from Gothic epistolary novels to the ‘found footage’ explosion of the early 2000s via phantasmagoria and chilling radio broadcasts such as Orson Welles’ infamous War of the Worlds (1938). It is no surprise, then, that the firm establishment of the digital age (i.e. the widespread use of Web2.0 spaces the proliferation of social media and its integration into everyday life) has created venues not just for interpersonal communication, shared interests and networking but also the potential for these venues to host a new type of horror fiction: creepypasta. However, much of the current academic attention enjoyed by digital horror fiction and creepypasta has focused on digital media’s ability to remediate a ‘folk-like’ storytelling style and an emulation of word-of-mouth communication primarily associated with urban legends and folk tales. Here, I intend to argue that creepypasta should primarily be considered a form of digital fiction due to its ability to spread narratives in a way distinct to digital textuality and intrinsically linked to the affordances of digital media. In this article, I will treat creepypasta narratives as a genre specific to the form of digital fiction – specifically a ‘fourth generation’ of digital fiction – in which ‘the [social media] platform is a significant part of the aesthetic expression and the meaning potential’ of these stories. I will argue that the affordances of social media, and the way in which they are taken advantage of by creepypasta narratives situate the phenomenon as an example of post-postmodern storytelling that embodies traits of Jeffrey Nealon’s ‘Post-postmodernism’, Alan Kirby’s ‘Digimodernism’ and Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker’s ‘Metamodernism’. I will suggest that this postpostmodern cultural turn works hand in hand with the resurgence of a cultural ‘hauntology’ to coalesce in creepypasta as a unique type of text. While creepypasta’s hauntological qualities have previously been noted by Line Henriksen, this article will explore a relationship between creepypasta and post-postmodernism that has not yet been acknowledged. Ultimately, I will attest that the above theories describe (sometimes overlapping) symptoms of an emerging cultural period that relate to creepypasta’s meaning potential and its formal and aesthetic properties. Observations from all three theories of a post-postmodern age coalesce in creepypasta narratives, from the specific qualities of digital textuality and the unique properties of different social media platforms on which these narratives are hosted (YouTube, Reddit, webforums and so on) to the metatextuality of creepypasta works and how they depart from and retain a dialogue with postmodern horror narratives. While the cultural landscape is still in flux and what will come after postmodernism has yet to be determined, creepypasta narratives tell us that a post-postmodern age has already arrived.

‘Ever seen horse-eyes up close?’: Entropoetics in _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9’s The Interface Series

Authors: Cameron Riddell 
Page Start: 179

Reddit provides an experimental environment for authors to post their stories progressively; in the case of user _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9, this progressive storytelling is both cohesive and fragmented, being posted sequentially over the space of two months, and being posted across a wide range of subreddits to gather the attention of a large audience. Those who followed the posts back to the user directory discovered a narrative framework emerging from the ostensibly unrelated autonomous posts, a framework centred around the horrifying Mother with Horse Eyes. This article argues that the fragmented/completeness of the narrative becomes both the form and the function of the text, allowing us to theorize a poetics of entropy. Beyond all other concerns, The Interface Series explores the philosophical problem of entropy, with philosophical, hermeneutic and literary repercussions.

Haunted objects, networked subjects: The nightmarish nostalgia of creepypasta

Authors: Kevin Cooley And Caleb Andrew Milligan 
Page Start: 193

In this article, we argue that the digitally networked horror genre ‘creepypasta’ and its networked horror collapses the comfortable dichotomy of subjects acting upon objects by creating narrative spaces in which haunted objects encroach upon the lives of their victimized subjects. Particularly, creepypasta legends such as ‘Candle Cove’ and ‘BEN Drowned’ upset the subject/object relationships of the technological nostalgia that fuels a mutating genre of Internet discourse. By alienating mythologized childhood artefacts (i.e., television shows, video games), these networked narratives depict not how properties can be made strange, but more accurately, are revealed as having always been strange. The perversion of the nostalgic text is only one part of what generates horror in these stories. It is that the texts themselves were always the perversions to begin with; always performing an eradication of object and subject, player and game, reader and text.

8-bit nostalgia and the uncanny: Horror as critique in Twine games

Authors: Heather Osborne 
Page Start: 213

As the video game medium has matured, nostalgia for earlier games and systems has grown, including through commodification of nostalgia by video game companies. Nostalgia contrasts a constructed ideal past in tension with an inadequate present. This doubled structure echoes how the uncanny distorts familiar spaces with unfamiliar dread. I explore how three indie Twine games create horror through their rhetorical and mechanical appeal to nostalgia. Tom McHenry’s Horse Master (2013) problematizes players’ empathy in resource sims; Michael Lutz’s the uncle who works for nintendo (2014a) examines the dangers of over-immersion in video games; and Christine Love’s Even Cowgirls Bleed (2013) critiques violent gameplay mechanics by taking them to their horrific extreme. These games’ aesthetic, mechanical, and thematic appeal to players’ nostalgia leads to a defamiliarization and ironization of the familiar, resulting in an uncanny horror. As a result, these games use the horror genre to critique unproblematized and commodified nostalgia in the video game community.

Zombies and the viral web

Authors: Karen E. Macfarlane 
Page Start: 231

Zombies are ubiquitous in twenty-first-century culture, and are generally read, as many monsters are, as metaphors for such anxieties as the horrors of mechanized labour, of unbridled consumerism, of global pandemics and on and on .... In this article, I argue that the zombie’s multiple and hybrid origins and metonymic associations make it a monster for the digital age. As posthuman fantasies of disembodiment become increasingly more possible, the corporeality of the zombie functions as a reminder of the fundamentally embodied nature of our experiences with and in cyberspace. In this sense, I argue, the zombie functions as a sign for the horrors of networked culture and its terrifying potential for monstrous replication.

‘Would you like to meet a ghost?’: Repetition and spectral posthumanism in Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo

Authors: Adam Lovasz 
Page Start: 249

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 2001 film, Kairo (Pulse), is an enigmatic piece of cinema. Even its genre cannot be neatly delineated. Part horror film, part art-house cinema, part social commentary, Kairo has a quality all of its own. While some commentators have identified the particular style of directing peculiar to the ‘other’ Kurosawa, even finding this mode of directing to be compatible with auteur modes of filmmaking, I seek to capture the singularity of the film’s content. In spite of the fact that Kurosawa as a director is notably repetitious in his choice of themes, the circumstance of repetition, as Gilles Deleuze reminds us in his 1969 book, Difference and Repetition, does not preclude the singular, evental nature of any and all such repetitions. Here I understand the phrase ‘repetition’ in the Deleuzian sense of the term, denoting a pure ‘difference without a concept’. Repetition is difference as it actualizes itself in the world. According to the Deleuzian view, underneath laws and generalities there may be found countless layers of singularities, processes and becomings that cannot be easily accessed. Obscurity, as I hope to show through numerous examples from Kairo’s screenplay, seems to be a pervasive phenomenon in Kurosawa’s apocalyptic vision of cybernetic society. Instead of connecting human beings with one another, information and communication technologies come to serve as conduits for spectral presences that produce new forms of disappearance. Productivity, far from being opposed to absence, is transformed during the course of the film into the virally proliferating production of nothing. For Deleuze, signs become deadly when they strike ‘with full force’. When the absolutely other strikes into the very heart of our Being, our very existence is endangered by machineries of abyssal replication. Every single character in Kairo is alienated from themselves and one another. The only vital, functioning form of community is, perversely, the realm of the dead, mediated by the transgressive power of cybernetic networks. As Valerie Wee has pointed out, the sense of lost community and the decline of tradition seems to be a salient theme of Kurosawa’s Kairo, as opposed to its rather more shallow 2006 American remake. Registering the circumstance of cultural decline and societal extinction, a very real phenomenon in early twenty-first-century Japan, should not be equated, however, with some form of nostalgic pining for a bygone era. Rather, I propose that we view Kairo as a deeply philosophical meditation on the posthuman condition, and the immanent possibilities of haunting repetitions lying beyond representation.
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